Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Hypocrite. Giving marriage and family advice for 31 years when she hated her parents, didn’t talk to her mother for 18-20 years (before she was found dead in her condo two months after succumbing to heart disease), and her first marriage broke up after only five years. While defending her right to “free speech,” after the conservative host said she found a magazine that featured “stealth pornography” in a surf shop and the store owner denied it, she sued him for libel asserting he had ruined her reputation. The judge threw out the lawsuit calling it “frivolous.” And the “good doctor” had to settle the $4 million counter-lawsuit out of court.
Oh and quitter too. After not being religious for most of her life, Schlessinger, her second husband, and son converted to Orthodox Judaism in 1996 but changed her mind in 2003. She began the Laura Schlessinger Foundation in 1998 but by 2004 found it too difficult and expensive to keep underwriting. She initiated a bi-weekly column for the Santa Barbara News Press in 2006 but stopped writing in the middle of the following year, then started it up again only to give up in December 2008 (hey, I’ve been doing my column for 18 1/2 years!).
Whenever I accidentally caught her syndicated radio show, I could only listen for 10 seconds because she invariably cut off the callers and dispensed advice like some psychic who didn’t need to hear the rest of the details to understand the situation. And she was so abrasively annoying.
On Aug. 10, when she got into trouble for repeating “the N-Word” while giving a black caller, “Jade,” advice on how to deal with her white husband’s white family and friends, I thought about Bill Maher and our debates on “Politically Incorrect” nine years earlier.
He also said similar things: He as a white person should be able to say “nigga” because it had become such a part of pop culture that it was not offensive as “nigger.” So why did that part of the discussion pass without much notice while Dr. Laura felt the need to end her show as of December of this year? Maybe because hers was a one-sided debate and she exuded insensitivity as the host.
Jade: How about the N-word? So, the N-word’s been thrown around.
Dr. Laura: Black guys use it all the time. Turn on HBO, listen to a black comic, and all you hear is n*gg*r, n*gg*r, n*gg*r–
J: That isn’t—.
DL: I don’t get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it’s a horrible thing, but when black people say it, it’s affectionate. It’s very confusing…
J: I was a little caught back by the N-word that you spewed out. I have to be honest with you. But my point is, race relations—
DL: Oh, then I guess you don’t watch HBO or listen to any black comedians.
J: But that doesn’t make it right. I mean, race is a—
DL: My dear, my dear—
J: —since Obama’s been in office.
DL: Yeah. We’ve got a black man as president, and we have more complaining about racism than ever. I mean, I think that’s hilarious…Chip on your shoulder. I can’t do much about that.
J: It’s not like that.
DL: Yeah. I think you have too much sensitivity—
J: So it’s OK to say “n*gg*r?”
DL: —and not enough sense of humor.
J: It’s OK to say that word?
DL: It depends how it’s said.
J: Is it OK to say that word? Is it ever OK to say that word?
DL: It depends how it’s said. Black guys talking to each other seem to think it’s OK.
J: But you’re not black. They’re not black. My husband is white.
DL: Oh, I see. So, a word is restricted to race. Got it. Can’t do much about that.
J: I can’t believe someone like you is on the radio spewing out the “n*gg*r” word, and I hope everybody heard it.
DL: I didn’t spew out the “n*gg*r” word.
J: You said, “n*gg*r, n*gg*r, n*gg*r.”
DL: Right, I said that’s what you hear.
J: Everybody heard it.
DL: Yes, they did.
J: I hope everybody heard it.
DL: They did, and I’ll say it again—
J: So what makes it OK for you to say the word?
DL: —N*gg*r, N*gg*r, N*gg*r is what you hear on HBO—
J: So what makes it—
DL: Why don’t you let me finish a sentence?
DL: Don’t take things out of context. Don’t double N- NAACP me. Tape the—
J: I know what the NAACP—
DL: Leave them in context.
J: I know what the N-word means and I know it came from a white person. And I know the white person made it bad.
DL: All right. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Can’t have this argument. You know what? If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry out of your race. If you’re going to marry out of your race, people are going to say, “OK, what do blacks think? What do whites think? What do Jews think? What do Catholics think?” Of course there isn’t a one-think per se. But in general there’s “think.”
And what I just heard from Jade is a lot of what I hear from black-think and it’s really distressing and disturbing. And to put it in its context, she said the N-word, and I said, on HBO, listening to black comics, you hear “n*gg*r, n*gg*r, n*gg*r.” I didn’t call anybody a n*gg*r. Nice try, Jade.
Actually, sucky try…
Ah, ah, hypersensitivity, OK, which is being bred by black activists. I really thought that once we had a black president, the attempt to demonize whites hating blacks would stop, but it seems to have grown, and I don’t get it.”
By contrast, although Bill Maher was equally defiant in August 2001 on “Politically Incorrect,” black actress Anne-Marie Johnson was able to respond more passionately to his beliefs (see it at manaa.org). Bill Maher: Now, I have an issue about you (David Spade) called it the N-word. Blacks are like, “Whites cannot say this word.” I disagree. This word has changed in the last 10, 15 years.
Anne-Marie Johnson: According to who?
BM: According to culture! According to the fact that it’s in every—
AMJ: Ask any African American person in this audience what that means, man?!
BM: Every African American person in this room uses that word night and day! It’s in every song, it’s all through culture.
AMJ: No, you’re wrong! You’re wrong! You’re wrong!
BM: Could I finish my point before you attack it? (applause)
BM: OK? The word has changed. It has been co-opted as a term of endearment. There is a bad old word—
Guy Aoki: From blacks to blacks! Not from whites to blacks!
AMJ: I think I’m the only one qualified here to talk about this issue (laughs)!
GA: From blacks to blacks. There’s a very different dynamic.
BM: OK. All right. Wait a second. First of all, I wouldn’t even know you were black if you didn’t tell me.
AMJ: Does it matter about color? Attitude?
BM: No, it doesn’t matter!
AMJ: See, this is what I love: I love when White people try to define African Americans (applause). What is African American, what isn’t African American. I’m African American regardless of my skin color or my hair or my clothes or my attitude. And I think I’m the only one on this stage who’s qualified to talk about the meaning of the word, how it hurts, how it doesn’t hurt, where it’s used, the history of it. Because I live it every day (applause).
BM: OK. It’s in every song. It’s in every song on the radio. OK? “Nigga (8 times)” is in every song. OK? People come up to me and go, “Bill, you a nigga.” (crowd laughter) But I can’t say “Thank you” or “No, please don’t use that word?” Or I can’t use that word back? There’s a rap group Niggaz With Attitude. My mother said to me, “What does that mean?” So I have to say, “Mom, it means ‘something’ with attitude?” I mean, I’m saying when this word has come this far into the mainstream, for a very good reason: They co-opted the word, to make it less powerful in a hurtful way.
GA: Just amongst blacks. Not for white people to call black people nigger. That still doesn’t work!
AMJ: I’m sorry, I still disagree with African Americans using the terminology. Because it proves that these young performers don’t know the history. Don’t know what—
BM: History changes!
Sarah Silverman: It’s true! Words evolve so much!
BM: Words evolve.
AMJ: No! History doesn’t change that fast—
BM: They do.
AMJ: —and we still have African Americans being lynched from trees—
BM: No, we don’t.
AMJ: —with “nigger” being burned on their back. And if it doesn’t happen in America, it happens in Europe. And let’s think about what happened in Washington—the state of Washington. Just a couple of years ago where an Ethiopian was lynched? So listen folks, it’s not a word that we can use: “Please pass the tea. Could you pass me the nigger too?” It still hurts (applause).
SS: That doesn’t even make sense!
In 2000, after saying the inability for gay people to physically have children was a “biological error,” gay activists got 170 sponsors of Dr. Laura’s new television talk show to drop sponsorship. CBS announced the program’s cancellation the following March. Schlessinger probably feared a similar movement being launched by the NAACP she bad-mouthed in her argument with Jade but she could’ve survived it. Yet despite being the third most listened-to disc jockey in the country with nine million listeners, she decided to pull her own plug. Her excuse? She couldn’t exercise her First Amendment rights through radio so would try to in other media like books and blogs. Right.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, she said, “I decided that I wanted to be able to express myself in a situation where I didn’t have sponsors and affiliates and employees threatened.” When asked, “Your employees were threatened?” she responded: “I’m not going to talk about that.” She said the same thing when asked, “Were you ever threatened with bodily harm?”
In other words, she’s trying to become a martyr by insinuating there were threats of violence when there really weren’t any.
As the Los Angeles Times editorial of Aug. 20 declared: “Schlessinger isn’t quitting because she can’t say what’s on her mind; she just couldn’t take the heat after she did it. To paraphrase her advice to the caller whose questions launched her racial tirade: She should just stop being so sensitive.”
Good riddance, Dr. Laura.
Till next time, keep your eyes and ears open.